Advocate Sidney Pilane this week lashed out at a bench of Court of Appeal (CoA) well regarded judges, accusing them of interjecting him “too much” during his oral submissions.
Pilane who is held with high esteem in the law fraternity cautioned the Judges to guard against interpolating as they interfered with his arguments as well as how he wanted to put them across. The panel consisted of three lordships in the mould of CoA President Justice Ian Kirby, Justice(s) Lord Arthur Hamilton and Jacobus Brand.
Pilane launched the scathing attack when deliberating in a case in which Kgatleng District Council (KDC) was appealing a High Court judgement by Justice Terrence Rannowane. Justice Rannowane had reviewed and set aside the decision by the KDC to refuse to grant Mochudi Wholesalers a building permit and subsequently an occupation permit. The permits, including other requirements satisfaction would have seen Mochudi Wholesalers start trading at the three storey building which is in the shape of a shopping complex now turned white elephant.
Following his one hour deliberations and going into the lunch break, the nonconformist Advocate Pilane raised the concern to Kirby and the two other juries that “you interject too much and I get derailed on my submissions”. Pilane, who can be easily regarded among the first Batswana to earn the title of an Advocate, justified to the panel of judges that they were making him not to argue his case as he wants to “in a coherent manner”.
“One judge asks a question, and while am attempting to answer the other one asks a different one. And I end up not being able to put my main case or argument coherently,” Pilane told the judges to their faces. In hearing the concern, Judge President Kirby who looked not amused by the accusations said they could as well keep quite throughout his submissions if Pilane so wished. “We can all keep quiet, listen until you finish, if it is what you want,” Kirby highlighted to the eccentric Advocate.
In response to Kirby’s comment, Pilane said he was only asking that the judges be considerate. He stated: “I was just asking for you to be considerate and in no way am I implying that the questions/inquiries you pose to me are not helpful. Neither am I saying the answers I give are not of assistance to your lordships.” Kirby also highlighted that senior counsel, Advocate Nigel Redman, who also made submissions before Pilane, was also subjected to similar interjection from the same panel.
It is not the first time that the Judges could not escape the wrath of the one-of-a-kind Pilane whom in February last year expressed the “chilling” similar views. He accused the CoA of having “a lack of respect for lawyers”. According to reports, Pilane told a bench of five CoA judges then that his junior lawyer, Mboki Chilisa (in a case in which they were both pursuing) was “attacked, interrupted and terrorised by the judges who were presiding over a case in which a teacher was fired for criticising President Ian Khama and his administration.”
According to the reports, Advocate Pilane complained that Chilisa was harassed and abused by the judges when he appeared before court. He had said then that “we are happy to be asked questions so that we provide clarity to the court but we want to be respected as we respect the court. He (Chilisa) was constantly interrupted and he hardly finished his sentences.” At some point, Pilane who is also the leader of opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), an affiliate of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), quit the party to try his luck for the Judgeship of the court.
Justice Kirby reserves judgement on main case
Meanwhile, Justice Kirby reserved the judgement on the Council and Mochudi matter to 2 February (in two weeks time). In the main appeal the Council said Justice Rannowane, in his High Court judgement, lost sight of the fact that the application before him was a review of the administrative decision made by the appellant (KDC) on 28 May 2013.
Court papers by KDC indicate that although the appellant (KDC) had negotiated with Mochudi; it had untimely determined that “it could not grant Mochudi a building permit and therefore an occupation permits in respect of the building. The reason for this was manifest. The appellant had not been satisfied by Mochudi that the building is structurally sound.”
The Council continued to point out that, in light of Mochudi having commenced and completed the construction of the building without having obtained the necessary approvals, it was aware that the appellants had been precluded from participating in the building process and from having inspected the construction work at various intervals. “Having regard thereto, it would have been incumbent upon Mochudi to satisfy the appellant of the structurally integrity of the building.”
Justice Rannowane had ruled that the parties were to engage an expert and assess the current structural soundness of the appellant’s building and if satisfied recommend remedial measures and thereafter issue a building and an occupation permit to the appellant. Mochudi Wholesalers Pty (Ltd) had erected the shopping complex and completed in 2003. They were asked in 2009 to demolish and remove the portion of the development from the road reserve as it was said to be encroaching on Pilane/Mochudi road reserve.
On the matter, Pilane said it is clear from the facts that KDC is acting dishonestly and with contumely. “Furthermore the building in question was completed as far back as 2003. More than 12 years have since lapsed with the building vacant, and being subjected to sporadic acts of vandalism, all at their expense.” The appellant, KDC was represented by Senior Counsel, Advocate Nigel Redman, Attorney Laone Serole and Steve Rankwana from Serole and Partners attorneys. Advocate Sidney Pilane together with attorney Monyaka Makunyana were fighting on the side of the Mochudi Wholesalers who own the disputed building.
Botswana’s efforts to accelerate key economic reforms got a boost following the approval of a $250 million loan by the World Bank today. The Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan (DPL) will support the implementation of Botswana’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan and is designed to strengthen COVID-19 pandemic relief while bolstering resilience to future shocks.
This DPL is also designed to support reforms to strengthen private sector development and promote green recovery. It is the first-ever World Bank budget support operation for Botswana and the first of two planned operations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a great burden on the country’s economy, its people, and firms. With this operation, the World Bank will support the government’s reforms to ensure social spending reaches the poorest and assists Batswana who are most affected by the Covid-19,” says World Bank Country Director for Eswatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly.
“This operation will also support reforms to attract private sector investments, contribute to diversification of exports, and increase job opportunities towards a green economy”. The operation provides both financial and technical support for government reforms to implement a Single Social Registry and to improve targeting of social spending on the most vulnerable while strengthening systems for future shocks.
It will also help strengthen the business environment for increased SME-led job creation and economic diversification through improved access to finance for individuals and small and micro enterprises (SMEs). Furthermore, the program will help Botswana to build the foundations for sustainable, “green” growth by supporting reforms to increase production of renewable energy by independent power producers, promoting and regulating rooftop solar energy generation, and embedding climate change considerations in environmental assessments.
DPLs are used by the World Bank to support a country’s policy and institutional reform agenda to help accelerate inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a real gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 7.9 percent in Botswana in 2020 – the largest in the country’s history.
This has also led to a depletion of existing fiscal buffers and has constrained revenue collection, reduced Government’s capacity and resources needed to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms and threatened to reverse progress in poverty reduction.
World Bank Group COVID-19 Response Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has committed over $125 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history.
The financing is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump start a climate-friendly recovery. The Bank is also providing $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.
University of Botswana Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, has lost support of the university staff, with four unions joining forces to demand his removal from office.
When he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana in December 2017, by the then Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Alfred Madigele, Professor Norris was hailed as an angel sent from heaven.
Professor Norris succeeded Professor Thabo Fako, after the latter led the University during turbulent times — with the university experiencing financial challenges and dwindling enrolment numbers.
Four years down the line, Professor Norris’ presence at the University nauseates many. Academic staff together with manual workers want Norris shown the door as soon as yesterday.
University of Botswana Academic Senior Support Staff Union, (UBASSSU), University of Botswana Staff Union (UBSU) and University of Botswana Manual Workers Union, in a petition submitted to Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Douglas Letsholathebe, called for the dismissal of Norris. The unions said that under the leadership of the Professor, UB staff members suffered immeasurable pain, agony and frustration, and their welfare is entirely overlooked.
The unions petition Professor Norris on a number of issues: blurred roadmap, inflationary adjustments of salaries, security services, corporate governance, teaching and learning resources, deteriorating infrastructure, staff victimization as well as appointment of staff undemocratically.
In their entreaty, staff members say that Vice Chancellor has failed to provide a clear roadmap to guide a wide range of operations within the University. Prior to Norris’ arrival, they say, UB had developed a strategy using its own scholars, led by Prof Thapisa and Prof Moahi respectively.
“They executed the assignment efficiently with intricate insider knowledge of the institution and a global academic outlook. The result of the process was later subjected to external review by consultants, even though the process was later abandoned at huge cost to the University. The Vice Chancellor is three years into this post, but he has done nothing to show, and always blames staff or his predecessors for the problems at UB,” the unions said in their petition.
The petition signed by UBASSSU President, Motsomi Marobela, acting on behalf of Manual Workers Union President, Oneile Mpulubusi and Ghadzani Mhotsha (Staff Union President), argue that Norris relishes grand standing and cheap rhetoric to project a positive image of the University to outsiders while the institution faces monumental challenges.
“Even the so-called new strategy was imposed on the staff, since unions were never consulted. Staff in faculties were threatened and bullied into submission whenever they revealed flaws in the strategy. In short, this strategy lacks the critical ‘buy in’ from those charged with implementation, something which is crucial for any new strategy to succeed.”
Professor Norris, a renowned scholar, has been fingered in being reluctant to advance staff salaries, something which has been done four years ago. Unions claim that despite several shots to alter this status quo, efforts proved vain.
“The Vice Chancellor has dismally failed to bring about any meaningful action to ascertain that staff remunerations are adjusted to mitigate the effects of inflation, despite his attention being drawn to the erosion of the buying power of University staff. UB staff salaries have not been adjusted for a duration of four years, despite numerous attempts by the trade unions (UBASSSU, UBSU and Manual Workers Union) to appeal on behalf of the constituents for his intervention,” reads part of the petition.
University management are said to be relaxed when it comes to the security of the organization, petitioners claim. They stress that this has happened several times in recent years whereby management has allowed private security contracts, which augment the in-house UB security, to lapse before they can float a new tender.
The loan schemes that the University gets into on behalf of employees, is said to be another dare giving staff workers grief, perpetuated by Vice Chancellor Norris.
“It has happened several times that the contract between the financiers and the University lapses before anything is put in place for employees to continue getting financial assistance. Quite recently, it was communicated by a memo from Staff Welfare and Benefits Office that the loan scheme with FNB is coming to an end on the 30th April 2021 and this communication was made on the 29th, just a day before the end of such contract. This again shows lack of proactiveness on the part of management which is led by the VC,” said the petition.
The Vice Chancellor is said to be overreaching in UB administrative structures. Professor Norris, who chairs the Staff Appointment and Promotion Committee (SAPC), hosts illegal Pre-SAPC meetings, which are usually attended by Human Resources and Executive Management, and make decisions on who to appoint, promote or whose contract to renew before the substantive meeting of SAPC.
The Vice Chancellor, disgruntled petitioners say, uses SAPC to rubber stamp the executive decision – this amounts to corruption. “Three years in the institution he has virtually run the university alone. The core and critical Deputy Vice Chancellor posts of Academic Affairs; Finance and Administration; and Student Affairs, have not been filled. Instead he has appointed people on acting positions and he is shuffling them around as he pleases. Those he prefers have been acting for over two years, which is contrary to the Employment Act.”
Professor Norris is a researcher and lecturer, having served in different capacities in Botswana, the United States of America and South Africa.
Prior to joining UB, he was Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BUIST), a position he held since 2016. He is the sixth Vice Chancellor of UB.
Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has announced the return of the Youth Development Fund (YDF), after it was put on suspension by Government last year.
The fund however, has been slashed from P120 million to P104 million with the total number of projects expected to shrink. The YDF programme was temporarily suspended last year due to shortage of funds.
The programme introduced in 2009 by government, was a way of improving the lives of the youth as well as helping to fight unemployment.
When addressing the media, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare said the ministry has resolved to start receiving applications for 2021/2022 Youth Development Fund from 09 June 2021 to 10 August 2021.
Rakgare said government was worried about the high numbers of unemployment hence the resolve to restart the YDF programme even in the midst of the pandemic.
He however revealed that due to budget challenges and the continued restrictive environment imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, there would be some modifications to the implementation of YDF.
“Due to budget challenges the allocation for the fund in the current financial year has been reduced from P120 million to P104 million. Constituencies will thus be allocated less than the usual P2 million, which means that the number of funded projects will be significantly reduced,” he said.
He further said priority for funding shall be for businesses with the potential to create a higher number of jobs and those that address key government priorities.
The sectors to be prioritized include; Manufacturing, Agriculture, Tourism, Technology, Digitization and Innovation. Moreover, the threshold for YDF financing remains at P100 000.00 for individuals and P450 000.00 for youth industries or co-operatives.
In addition to funding youth projects, the Minister said P14, 393,066.77 will be reserved for completion and implementation of Special Projects such as development of Land-banks, mentorship partnerships and trainings.
All changes to the YDF programme are to apply only for this year while a comprehensive review is undertaken. The target is to have the revised programme implemented in the next financial year.